Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to be at this function for the presentation of the 5th
Paulos Mar Gregorios Award. This prestigious Award was instituted by the
Sophia Society in the memory of its founder, the Late Dr. Paulos Mar
Gregorios, who was the first Bishop of the Delhi Diocese of the Indian
Orthodox Church, an extraordinary human being, a scholar and linguist, as
also an activist for peace and justice. He spent his life in the service of
the people. He had a deep desire for learning and was a life-long seeker of
truth and knowledge. He believed that all religions worked for the common
goal of the well being of humanity. He often said that the deeper we go into
our respective religions, we find the basic love of God and love for all
humanity, which should unite us all.
The Paulos Mar Gregorios Award recognizes the seminal contribution made by
individuals in the promotion of inter-faith dialogue, as well as work in the
fields of community self-renewal, education, public health, social justice,
culture and peace. Dr. Karan Singh richly deserves this award for his
outstanding contribution in the fields of public life, inter-faith dialogue
and culture. I congratulate him warmly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since the dawn of human civilization there has been a constant search for
answers about existentialism and the purpose of life. This has led to a
universal conclusion that peace and harmony are the very basis of progress
and prosperity. But, despite this knowledge, human history has not been free
of discord and conflict. Strife, however, has neither diluted the quest for
peace nor resulted in diminishing the commitment of the proponents of peace.
Indeed, our efforts for bringing harmony can never be given up and these
must continuously be pursued. Many men and women have contributed to these
efforts throughout human history, and continue to do so. Dr. Karan Singh is
one of the foremost among them.
Dr. Karan Singh is a respected and distinguished statesman, an eminent
administrator, a thinker, author and diplomat. He has seen and experienced
life in its many hues. He has contributed enormously to the nation in
various fields and shown exemplary dedication in working for the welfare of
the people. His many interests range from education, literature, culture,
spirituality to social work and the preservation of wildlife, just to name a
few. One of his major interests is a deep study of religion. He has a
mastery over Vedic literature, the Upanishads and other such texts. I
attended the engagement ceremony of his son and the daughter of late
Madhavrao Scindia. At that time Dr. Karan Singh chanted shlokas non-stop for
a long time, so much so that the five pundits who had come for this purpose
were amazed. His is a voice heard with deep respect on many matters and in
many fora. He believes that each religion has made a special contribution to
human knowledge. Dr. Karan Singh has always advocated that all on our planet
have a shared destiny and, therefore, all must seek to live in peace with
one another, through respect for each other's faiths. He is of the view that
inter-faith discourses should move from the periphery to the center of human
consciousness. Speaking in January 2004, he posed the question,
What sort of global society are we going to have? Will it be based upon
exploitation and fanaticism, or are we going to have a sane and harmonious
global society based on inter-faith understanding and peaceful conflict
In view of the happenings around us in the past few years and the world
becoming a smaller place, this indeed is a very important question. We must
try and find an answer.
Often it is divisions created by lack of understanding and misperceptions
that have sparked the fires of conflict. We need to bridge these divides and
necessarily through dialogue. In the contemporary world, globalization has
accentuated and intensified inter-action amongst people of diverse
backgrounds. No country or community lives in isolation. This imposes an
even greater responsibility on all of us to understand the many cultures,
faiths and the religions. However, it is most regrettable when religion is
used to sow the seeds of suspicion and dissensions. Across the world, in
recent years, extremism and terrorism have been issues of concern. Both are
antithesis of all religions. There is no religion that promotes disharmony.
All religions advocate welfare of humanity as the highest form of duty and
devotion. Love and affection are the cardinal principles underlying all
religions. Inter-faith dialogue can promote an understanding of the basic
tenets on which different faiths are anchored.
Dialogue produces a confluence of the various streams of thought, opinions
and aspirations. They bring together the inputs of different civilizations,
cultures and religions, to produce a grand movement of human advancement.
Today's world is different from yesterdays. Tomorrow's world too will be
different from the one of today. Change is inevitable and the march of time
a reality. We stand today at the start of a new decade of a new millennium.
It offers an opportunity when science and technology combined with the
values of harmony and tolerance of our civilizational heritage can create
the conditions of peace and security, where individuals and societies can
excel, and where compassion and respect for others prevail.
India is a land of many faiths and cultures. Inter-faith discourses have
taken place in our country over the millennia. Besides all the faiths that
originated here, India welcomed people belonging to other religions. Their
customs and ideas were synthesized to create the unique composite identity
of India. The principle of secularism, enshrined in our Constitution, is
based on respect for all religions. I would like to stress this again, that
not merely tolerance but respect for all religions is important. There is no
place for fissiparous ideas of any sort - region, religion, language, caste,
creed, hatred or any other ground. We have to work together with unity of
purpose with patriotic feelings, keeping India together and strong with
perfect communal harmony. All Indians of all faiths in different parts of
the country have worked together collectively for India. This spirit must
continue, as we build a more prosperous and harmonious nation.
I, once again, congratulate Dr. Karan Singh for receiving this prestigious
award. Dr. Karan Singh is a rare person with a number of rare qualities of
the head and the heart. I also compliment the Sophia Society for instituting
this Award and their efforts to promote peace, justice and wisdom, the
ideals for which Mar Gregorios worked for.